I’m back.

I’ve been absorbed over the past few days with a few ongoing projects.

I’ve been making some slight revisions and expansions to chapter 1 of my thesis, to bring it in line with what I wrote in chapters 2 and 3. I expect to send that off in a couple of days.

I’ve also started a couple of new reading projects:

I finished Elaine Pagels’ Adam, Eve and the Serpent and have picked up James O’Donnell’s new biography of Augustine. For those of you interested in the bishop of Hippo, O’Donnell’s bio does take advantage of recent epistolary discoveries and chronological revisions. However, for sheer depth of learning both regarding Augustine and Late Antiquity in general, as well as readability, I still recommend Peter Brown’s Augustine of Hippo over it.

I’ve also been reading Jack Reese’s The Body Broken. Reese starts from the premise that Churches of Christ are so fragmented that we (“liberals” and “conservatives,” traditionalists and progressives) hardly have the ability to talk to one another any more. The substance of the book’s argument grows out of the letters of Paul and the situations in which Paul exhorted Christians to love one another, serve one another, and work together no matter what our opinions and backgrounds are.

We associate with and form churches with those who are like us.

They seek to attend the kind of church they like, which is to say, a church like them. In such a world, most Christians in the United States never have to be confronted by anyone whose opinions differ substantially from their own. Their church, often chosen because its perspective on virtually every matter concurs with their own, becomes the convenient filter through which they view the neighborhood, the nation, and the world…

Reese points, obviously, to racial and ethnic segregation of congos as evidence of this.  But beyond this we segregate ourselves doctrinally; we group with those with whom we agree and are comfortable. 

Beyond ethnic differences, people of different opinions concerning disputable matters can learn to be together. We can learn to serve one another and work side by side. We can listen and even disagree in a spirit of love and humility. We can worship together, sitting on the same pew, singing the same songs, offering an amen to the same prayers, and eating around the same table. We may have substantial differences, but Christ is powerful enough to make us his people anyway.

Our task is not to choose our brothers and sisters; our task is to love them. Christ’s power is enough to traverse the differences. (pp. 84, 100)

This book has been greatly encouraging to me. Our little NI church here in Newnan is working on reaching out to neighboring CofCs of all stripes — motivated by some of the very ideas that Reese presents. Pray for us as we work (and, I pray, as God works in us) to come together with these other congos so that the name of Christ may be glorified here in this city.

More on Dick Blackford’s book soon.


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